Bridging Benefits

Such benefits – meant to compensate a person who retires early, until he becomes eligible for Canada Pension Plan benefits – constitute a matrimonial asset subject to division, according to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal:

[7] Mr. Cashin says the bridging benefit is provided under the collective agreement by his employer as an incentive to retire early. He says it is meant to compensate him for income he would otherwise have earned had he not retired rather than to top up his pension. Thus, Mr. Cashin says, it is akin to a wrongful dismissal award, or a severance package paid in relation to involuntary termination of employment. Alternatively, he submits, it is simply an income stream not an “asset”. I would disagree. …Here, the bridging benefit was not a contingent future entitlement that may or may not be paid, as Mr. Cashin’s argument would suggest. As I have said, he was receiving the monthly income from the benefit at the time of separation. His entitlement to it had been earned during the marriage…
[8] Pursuant to s. 4(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c. 275 all real and personal property acquired by either or both spouses before or during their marriage is a matrimonial asset, subject to certain enumerated exceptions. The burden of proving that an asset is not matrimonial by reason of exception falls upon the spouse making that assertion. Pensions are, prima facie, matrimonial assets. The bridging benefit is clearly a part of that pension entitlement. In any event, it is a service-based benefit earned during the marriage as part of Mr. Cashin’s employment package. It was not an asset acquired after separation. It does not fall within the s. 4 exceptions.

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